The next day, Alexis and his team headed back to Avalon, where they found Valencia, in addition to the same members as yesterday.
「—So, why are you here?」
Alexis is dumbfounded, while Valencia makes a fist, "Of course!".
「I'm here to protect Her Highness! Fortunately, my position is attacker. I can take her place! So, there's no need for her to do something dangerous!」
Next to Valencia, who was saying these words with great enthusiasm, Fransisca looked flustered.
「I'm sorry, Alexis-sama, but I told her yesterday that we didn't need an escort, but it seems that she came here on her own...」
To Fransisca, Valencia said, "Your Highness!" in a scolding tone.
「Why aren't I needed? Besides, Your Highness can't do anything, so you have to leave it to me, your vassals! And since my sister doesn't seem to be around right now, then I'll take care of her side too!」
「Hey, Valencia. As I've told you many times, I've been a good attacker myself.」
「While causing trouble for Alexis-sama, right? There's no way Your Highness can do it by yourself.」
「Hmm...? I-Is that so?」
「That's right. That's why knight like me is here. Now, Your Highness can leave everything on me!」
Valencia is pounding her chest in exuberance.
Alexis, however, felt like letting out a sigh at the sight.
"Ah, as I thought, she is the same as her sister," He thought. Or rather, Sagrado's vassals are all like them. Sara, who is still just an onlooker, is in the minority.
「Well, Fransisca is useful. But then again, you've survived through the dungeons, haven't you? So, I'm sure you've got some skills. That's good thing, but there are already five of us. And we just need one attacker. That has been our decision.」
「Why? Even though it's such a big place. Why can't we have at least one more attacker?」
Seeing Valencia's puzzled look, Alexis realizes that she is right. They do not know any other dungeon in the area.
「It's true that it's a big place. But the Avalon we know isn't there... it's in a narrow cave. ...But, well. Surely you're right too...」
Even though it's covered by fog, there's still a 10 meter radius of visibility.
In that area, the more people, the better.
「Then, Valencia, you're in.」
Fransisca sounded upset, as if she thought she was going to be fired.
But Alexis tells her, "Don't get me wrong".
「You're coming, of course, as an attacker. Without you, we can't get out of the dungeon, so of course we need you.」
「Ah... T-That's right.」
Fransisca patted her chest in relief.
「Anyway, in that dungeon, we actually have to be on guard in all directions. So, It would be better to increase our numbers.」
「Indeed, that's true.」
Fransisca turned to Valencia with a satisfied look.
「Well then, I am looking forward to working with you again, Valencia.」
When Fransisca said this, Valencia's expression tightened and she replied, "Yes! Yes!".
「I swear to you that I will protect you with this sword!」
"...Well, about that sword," Alexis interrupted from the side, suddenly remembering.
「In the area you were in, there are a lot of monster that ordinary swords wouldn't work on, right? How did you get through them? And that armor, which looks like it's your own, doesn't look too badly damaged.」
"Oh, this is?" Valencia smiles.
「This sword and armor are both from the dungeon. They are good and sturdy. Did you see a lot of swords with broken blades near me? I've ruined many of them... Luckily, I had a lot of weapons close at hand, so I was able to survive. My original armor was shattered, so I had to throw it away.」
So, although she looks like a knight, Valencia's appearance may not be that of a Sagrado knight, except for the way she wears her armor.
Still, it's a wonder that Valencia has the weapons and armor that suit her. Valencia's survival in the dungeon was probably due in part to luck.
「One more thing, I need to make sure of something before we go to the dungeon.」
Alexis then turned his attention to Dorothea, who had come in Lorenzo's place today.
「Your pack seems to be very light. Where did you put the beams and stuff to build the camp in the first place?」
「Her Highness says she doesn't want it anymore. Haven't you heard, prince?」
Alexis was rather upset.
「I didn't hear it, I didn't hear anything...」
「...Really, I tried to tell you, but it was Alexis-sama who didn't listen, wasn't it?」
Fransisca said with a grumble, but then changed her mind and said, "You see, I just found a nice artifact and I left it with Dorothea".
「If I recall, there were some artifacts from Sagrado. What happened to the artifacts?」
「Well, we brought some artifacts that could be used in the dungeon, so I can explain them to you while we go to the dungeon.」
Alexis responded to Fransisca's suggestion with, "Okay, I count on you".
* * *
Yesterday they brought back four artifacts from the dungeon.
Two of them were not brought in this journey because one was a jar that could increase the amount of seeds in the plant harvest and the other was a small statue made of ice that did not melt （it was cold to the touch）.
「...I don't think it would be useful. Especially the latter. I wonder what it is? What does it exist for...?」
「Well... B-But it seems to cool well when added to a drink. It won't disintegrate too, so it'll be washable and reusable.」
「...It's surprisingly useful.」
Fransisca smiled bitterly at Alexis' serious attitude.
「...Please don't use it, okay? It's a precious thing...」
「...You're a little more stingy than I thought. Can't you say, "I'll let you use one of the artifacts as you like in return for helping us out like this?"」
Alexis said this half jokingly, but Fransisca seemed to take it seriously.
「N-No can't do! There is a royal protocol that artifacts in Sagrado are not to be given up easily. You have to go through the Senate and get permission from them, even if it is Alexis-sama we are dealing with... That is why Dorothea's artifact is not a gift, but a loan, and there is an exception that says that it must be under the supervision of the person in charge if necessary. And that's because of the exception that is allowed...」
After looking at Fransisca's face as she made excuses, Alexis looked back from the driver seat and let out a sigh.
「Don't you know the word 'flexibility'? How do I get through to the Senate, which is not there now, and how do I get permission?」
Fransisca finally seemed to realize what was happening and muttered, "Ah yeah," and turned around to see Sara and Valencia.
「I-It's a trouble. I wish the people of the Senate could live in the dungeon like Valencia...」
「I don't think the Senate can be called Senate anymore if they are capable to live in dungeon...」
Valencia nodded her head following Sara's murmur.
「Indeed. They should be a knight, not a political officer. But if they can live, by the time we find them, they'll either be muscular or young again.」
「...B-But if the mutation spring worked...」
「The mutation spring? What's that?」
Valencia was puzzled, apparently having never encountered such a spring before.
So, Sara explained about the mutation spring and Valencia listened fearfully to her voice behind her back, while Alexis nodded his head deeply.
Yes, yes, that's good. Mutation is not the way to go.
Alexis thought about Lorenzo who still had his horns.
Just Alexis hears Fransisca's voice saying, "...ah, yes".
「I almost forgot. I'll leave this with Alexis-sama. Dorothea, can you take that out?」
At Fransisca's prompting, Dorothea pulled a silver bracelet from her pouch.
Fransisca leaned forward and handed it to Alexis. And Alexis mutters "What's this?".
「It is one of the two artifacts that we brought with us now. You should wear it.」
Fransisca told him, and Alexis nodded.
「That's fine... but what the hell does this do?」
After thinking for a moment, Fransisca put her index finger to her lips.
「I won't tell you anything about it if you didn't listen to me yesterday.」
Unusually for Fransisca, she gives a mischievous smile.
Alexis is miffed, but finds the unusual gesture cute, so he reluctantly decides to wear it without saying a word.
Well, it's Fransisca. There would be no bad effects.
（Is it... okay? Don't tell me she secretly hate me for making her a slave?）
He's thinking it over in his mind.
Fransisca is the type of person who clearly likes or dislikes something, so if she had a grudge against him, she would have given him a cursed bracelet for sure.
"Let's hope she doesn't hold a grudge," Alexis thought to himself.
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